Winter doesn’t go away quietly here in Ontario. Heavy ice storms are a common late-season problem, and they can cause serious property damage. While your tree may have come this far without your help, the next big storm could be the tipping point that breaks a lot of branches, or even brings the whole tree down.
This damage isn’t restricted to your tree, of course; your car and home are susceptible to bearing the brunt of falling limbs. You should properly prepare your tree for the worst winter has to make sure it comes into spring intact!
Protecting Your Tree From Ice Storms
Prevention is the best medicine for weather damage. Before weak or diseased branches, codominant stems (diverging trunks, for example), and already broken limbs fall off, they should be removed. A professional arborist can perform a qualified risk assessment of the tree and prune whatever is necessary.
Pruning can be done by the tree’s owner, but amateur work risks pruning too little or too much. Arborists and pruning experts can properly assess the strength of each branch and detect signs of weakness that might escape a nonprofessional. They can also strengthen the central “leader” trunk if it happens to diverge.
For young trees, annual professional pruning can prevent excessive limb growth and help strengthen the trunk. This is necessary especially for fast-growing trees, like a fruit tree, which tend to be more brittle and sprout more “crotches”, or diverging V-shaped limbs. If you’re looking to plant new trees, choose a strong species: conifers, red maple, oak, poplar, and sycamore are all hardy species.
What To Do During The Ice Storm
Nothing can be done during an ice storm that would be safe for the tree or you, so please don’t try anything. Even if you notice sagging limbs under the ice, do not try to knock the ice off as a preventative measure. You’ll just make the chances of cracking more likely, and it might just crack and fall on you. So sit tight, and hope that your preparations work!
Helping Your Tree After The Storm
If you notice the potential for damage to occur during a winter storm, wait until the storm is over and the ice has melted off the tree. The threat isn’t over once the precipitation is, and trying to do work on branches heavy with ice and snow is hazardous to the tree and your safety.
If any branches have broken off, do not leave the damaged part alone. The remaining branch should be pruned back to where it meets a larger branch or the trunk. A proper pruning will prevent future decay, infection, or unwanted sprouting by sealing off the wound and aiding the healing process.
If you’re going to take on the job yourself, make sure to do all the work with proper protective equipment: tools that are sharp (dull tools are unsafe tools), eye and head protection, a sturdy ladder, and a helper or two to make sure everything is safe. Remember, when in doubt, call an arborist!